‘Maradona, oh Maradona/ with the fire in your belly and strength in your nerves/ you will come back to succeed.’ This was the song in Bengali with which Diego Maradona was welcomed in Kolkata in December 2008. In the city of dialectical materialism, Maradona was god. In Argentina, of course, the man’s worshipped as ‘D10S’, a combo of his shirt number and ‘Dios’, Spanish for ‘god’; his autbiography, El Diego is the Bible; those who helped him in his career are apostles, his adversaries heretics.
The Argentine team is packed with more stars than any other team in this year’s World Cup. But it is still Maradona’s team. His moment of glory was, of course, lifting the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and the ‘Goal of the Century’ against England that preceded it. From that peak, he plunged into the depths of drugs and scandal, being banned from playing for 15 months. He was in the 1994 team and scored a great goal against Greece but was sent back in disgrace after failing a dope test. Drug addiction, weight issues and other health problems followed. But he came back, reinventing himself as a TV host and in 2008 becoming the coach of the Argentina team.
Will he inspire Argentina to overcome the Germans tonight and make Messi and Co. win the Cup next Sunday? Even asking this is heresy in the Church of Maradona.
R. Viswanathan is India’s ambassador to Buenos Aires, Argentina The views expressed by the author are personal